Finding the UP-SIDE in a Raging Fire

Finding the UP-SIDE in a Raging Fire

                                                                                              By Jeanette Vale

 A loud explosion was heard.   I ran out of my house to see where the noise came from.  Down the street a huge ball of fire had engulfed a side-by-side.  Thick black smoke billowed up into the air.   The white plastic fence nearby melted to reveal the unfortunate neighbor's backyard.   Police finally arrived and cordoned off the area as young boys did one last zip through on their bikes to see the excitement up close.

 My street filled with neighbors as they came to watch the flame consume the vehicle. I saw Mrs. Haskins.  She lives across the street from me.  I greeted her as I walked over.  Leticia, from the house to my left, came out and joined us, as did two other neighbors from their homes.  Conversation flowed as we surmised what might have caused the explosion. 

 An Ache Inside

During our discussion I began to feel something.  It was an ache from missing what I didn’t know I was missing, connection with the people around me. Here I was, talking with four neighbors that I’ve lived next to for years, but rarely spoke to.  It felt so good to talk!  It felt like home.  How had I lived without this? The thought of going back to our isolated lives afterwards made me sad, yet I knew we would. 

 An emergency does something to neighbors.  Walls fall away and bridges spring up in an instant. Sometimes emergencies can make total strangers feel like family.   I felt that way right after 9-11.  I cared very deeply for everyone who I came in contact with.

 It was the summer of 2020 when this fireball erupted on our street.  So much was happening across the globe and in our nation.  Seeing and smelling that fire was a rake across already frayed nerves.  It wasn’t a major emergency (for the onlookers), but it was an image that matched too much of what was on the news.  A police officer joined our circle on the sidewalk.  It was nice to talk with him, I respect our first responders and I am so grateful for them. 

Certainty is like oxygen.   We must feel certain that everything is going to be okay.  In an emergency, certainty is ripped out from under us, and we can experience jarring fear.  Our fight or flight mechanism takes over as we deal with the present situation.   A depletion of energy follows as we slump in absolute exhaustion.  We find other humans comforting to be with.  We become a tribe in the face of adversity.  This is the upside to emergencies.

 Overwhelmed Children

 I once heard of a child who was overcome with anxiety when he saw an alarming story on the news.   His mother took note of this response and taught the boy a critical coping method.   “Son, always look for the helpers. They are always there”.  These are the people who jump into action and rescue, lift burdens, and share their strength. What a shift of focus for this child to now see the good in every dark situation! There are so many people who become superheroes during an emergency.  These people are the upside in emergencies.

 My invitation

 Let the storms come, you know they will.  There is no stopping the fireballs that explode and send us running.  There are elements we can’t control.  But we can control being prepared ahead of time.  We can control running through our evacuation plans.  We can control storing food and water in case supply chains hit bumps (I am typing this in November of 2021 and we are experiencing this).

We can pay attention to our gut instinct of what we should prepare for and execute on those ideas.  We can reach out to those around us and take care of each other.   The goal is to survive, and we do it best as friends and countrymen.  Step on, prep on and enjoy your neighbors.


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